symbolize the Cosmic Pillars that support the world, and which are the
Eastern counterparts of the Titan Atlas. The reference to Atlas suggests
an undeniable connection with Atlantis.
The Wat rises in three concentric enclosures
that define three courtyards, as in the Jewish and the Egyptian temples
discussed above. The symbolic meaning of the Wat pyramidal complex is clear
to specialists. It corresponds to the Polar Mountain (Meru), the hub of
the universe. The central shrine corresponds, as in Borobudur, to the supreme
reality, while the lower levels, the gate complex, the cloister, the city
of Angkor and the outer world represent, in descending order, the outer
shells of reality. The orientation of Angkor Wat towards the West represents
the fact that it was a mortuary temple.
The Angkor Thom is even more grandiose
than Angkor Vat. Like its predecessor, it replicates the sacred city of
Paradise (Lanka), built upon the slopes of Mt. Meru. The city was in turn,
also a symbolic replica of the Cosmos, on whose shape it was designed.
This symbolic universe follows Hindu Cosmological doctrines. When possible,
the kings of Angkor utilized natural hills for the construction of their
holy cities. When this was impossible, they built artificial mountains
in the shape of stepped pyramids like the beauttiful ones of Angkor Thom
and Angkor Vat.
The central pyramidal complex of Angkor
Thom, the Bayon, is the biggest though not by all means finest of them
all. Within the moats of Angkor Thom, fully 16 km around, lie the huge
complexes of buildings and of
barays (dams), lakes and irrigation
channels that formed the sacred city, its temples, houses and palaces.
The plan and conception of angkor Thom are both grandiose.
But the execution pressed by the huge size and the enormity of the work
to be done is somewhat poorer than the refined art of its predecessors such
as Angkor Vat and others. The plan of Angkor Thom illustrates the creation
of the Cosmos darting from the Center (Mt. Meru), and spreading in successive
waves from it. This plan is based in the Cosmogonic myth known as
Churning of the Ocean of Milk and, even more exactly, in the lotus-like mandalas such as the beautiful Shri Yantra.19
The two monumental roads leading to the
central tower of Angkor Thom are lined with a mile-long road of divine
personages pulling on the body of the Serpent Shesha (Vasuki) in a giant
tug-of-war, exactly as in the myth just mentioned. The serpent is coiled
around the Polar Mountain (Meru) that served as the giant churning stick
activated by the
devas and the
asuras. The two parties pull
on opposite sides of the churning rope which consists of the immensely
long body of the Serpent Shesha. Below, at the bottom, lies the Turtle
(Kurma), that represents the Paradise sunken to the bottom of the Ocean
of Milk in consequence of the war.
The Paradisial Fountains of Life
The complex of Angkor Thom is also decked
with lakes and ponds and fountains representing the healing waters of Paradise
Barays). These symbolize the Fountains of Life that are
the central feature of Paradise everywhere. Another important myth illustrated
in Angkor is the Legend of the Leper King and his magic healing by means
of these wondrous waters which are no other than the Elixir.
This ancient Hindu myth somehow passed
into Christianity, where the Leper King is identified with King Abgarus
and his magic healing is attributed to the Holy Sudary, the actual image
of Christ obtained by equally magical means. There can
be no doubt that the legend of the Leper King originated in the Indies. There it dates from times well before the advent of Christianism as a religion
on its own. This serves to prove the force of diffusion of myths, legends
and religions traditions from earliest times and from the most remote regions of the world.